The 7 Deadly Sins of Artists


7 deadly sins of artists

Did you know that there are 7 deadly sins of artists? Are you committing one or more of the 7 deadly sins of artists and don't even know it?

If you are an artist, the bad news is you have millions of competitors.

The good news is most of them suck.

The same problems come up again and again, keeping artists from building a dynamic body of work and a loyal following.  So how about you?

Do you commit one of these 7 deadly sins of artists with your work?

1. Perfectionism

This is the big one.

Nothing kills creativity faster than perfectionism.  If everything you create has to be perfect, you will create nothing.  It's that simple.

It's okay to leave some loose ends and ragged edges.  And it's more fun too.

2. Sloth

Here’s why I don’t do much one-on-one career consulting with other artists any more.

The 1,000th time I heard a client say, “But that sounds like a lot of work,” my brain exploded.

You know what’s a lot of work? Working at a job you can't stand to support yourself so you can paint in your spare time. 12 hour days, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Maybe after a couple of years your boss will let you take some time off to take an art class.

By contrast, running a full-time art studio is a lot of fun, not much stress (by comparison, anyway), and yes, less work.

Not no work. Less work.

3. Impatience

I don’t think there’s an artist in the world who hasn’t been frustrated at some point in their career when things just aren’t moving as fast as we want.

It takes some time to build your skills and create a following, and momentum is your friend. Most of us don’t take off like rockets. We build slowly at first, then the snowball starts to grow.

If you’re not finding your direction or the audience you want yet, ask yourself:

  • Is my work actually interesting to someone other than my mom and my cat?
  • Do I finding true joy in my artistic expression?
  • Am I having fun?
  • Do I working on cultivating a network of like-minded artist friends, and supporting their work as much as I hope they’ll support mine?

If the answers are yes, you’ll need to cultivate a little patience. Maybe even a good dose of stubbornness. Trust me, I know it isn’t easy. Read Seth Godin's  The Dip to keep yourself motivated while you get there.

4. Lameness

In the art world, the currency you pay is being totally amazing.

If your work is lame, you don’t find an audience and your message doesn’t get through. If your work is fantastic, you’ll find a nice-sized audience who will love to come to your gallery openings and pay big prices for your art.

To paraphrase the sales and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, lame people have skinny kids.

5. Selfishness

As an artist, you’re always giving much more than you’re asking for.

Be inspired by others, but find your own place.

Interestingly, that place is often defined by the people you serve. Think more about them.

This is why so many “get rich quick” schemes don’t work, and why they’re particularly ill-suited to an artist's path. They’re about taking. They’re not about giving.

6. Irrelevance

It’s lovely to put your heart into your work, to infuse it with your personality, to come across as a real and likeable human being.

The game still ain’t about you, baby.

Some people are naturally attracted to topics that other people care about. Others aren’t. Don’t try to sell broccoli ice cream, even if that’s your favorite.

7. Boorishness

Boorishness usually comes from one of the other 7 deadly sins of artists. Selfishness being the most common.

You know that guy at the party who just refuses to shut up? The one who lectures you for 45 minutes about his Warcraft collectible figurines, without ever noticing that you’re desperately wishing you had a cyanide pill so you could quietly end it all?

Don’t be that guy.

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. sonnieharris

    Hey, nice post. So true about sin No. 1. I think it’s a pride thing, and we all know what that comes before.

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Thanks. I think you are right. Pride can go hand in hand with perfectionism and ultimately take you way off course.

  2. Victor

    I love everything i just read, it’s nothing but truth. For many, that will be hard to recognize.
    Thanks for putting it out there…The Artisan Victor

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Thanks for your comments. And I think you are right, sometimes it’s hard for someone to see the real facts even when they are right under their noses.
      Thanks again.

  3. Della

    Thanks Gary, I could use a good kick in the pants. I like your tell it like it is approach and can’t wait for the first up date!

    Della Badart

    1. Gary Bolyer

      Hey Don, Good to hear from you. How are things going with your blog?

  4. Greta Jourdane

    Hi Gary Ive been painting for just a little under 18 months, and I have already learned some things the hard way. I have found signing up for your emails so helpful, I like your cut to the chase approach. My art blog needs to be updated, and really worked on seriously. As its a atm therefore I need to have a plan for the blog. Ive just used it to upload my art. Thankyou so much for your support and wonderful advice you share.

    1. Gary Bolyer

      Hi Greta,
      Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you’re enjoying my newsletter. Keep us updated on the progress of your blog.

  5. peterdaniels

    I enjoyed this conversation. One thing that I get a charge out of is exploring, be it mediums or styles, I like to develop these areas as they can reflect many different aspects of life. I know, the public like you to find your space and stay in it so that they can relate to that space, but I studied Dali, I even went to his studio home in Spain, and I realized I am on my path that is right for me. If the public like my work, that is a plus, but remember no composer sat down to write for his audience, he wrote what came to him. Thanks. Peter Daniels.

  6. Louise Foerster


    Great post, as always!

    I am an artist, but I use words rather than paint, so was inspired by your thoughts to sketch the seven virtues of a creative person:

    1. Bias to Act: Done Well beats Imagined Perfection
    2. Commitment — invest the time and effort to make good art, to develop yourself
    3. Patience
    4. Fantastic, amazing work
    5. Generosity
    6. Relevance
    7. Presence/Connection/Share Yourself and Your Work

    Still playing around with this — your posts have a way of getting right to the core of what really matters!

  7. Erika Lancaster

    Great read! So true! I will definitely keep these points in mind throughout my own artistic journey!

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